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Rabbit Hutch Homes: The growth of micro-homes

This research uses figures based on analysis of Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Open Data, DCLG, and investigates the number of new homes being developed that are below the 37m2 minimum national space standards for a 1-person, 1-bedroom home with a shower.

Written by housing expert Colin Wiles, with a foreword by Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography, University of Oxford, the main findings include:

  • The number of micro-homes being built in the UK has increased almost fivefold in just five years.
  • The number of new micro-homes developed has increased from 2,139 in 2013 to 9,605 in 2018.
  • Micro-homes are not just a London phenomenon. From 2016 to 2018 significant numbers have been built in the North West, the South East outside London, and Yorkshire and the Humber.
  • Policy-makers, including Boris Johnson, then Mayor of London, hoped that micro-homes would provide a part-solution to the housing crisis by using a “policy shortcut” in 2013 to permit the conversion of dis-used commercial buildings into residential housing with almost automatic planning consent irrespective of their size or amenity.
  • Instead, the UK can now claim the dubious title of having the smallest rooms, and the second smallest homes, to be found across all of Europe with some micro-developments as small as a single garage at 8.3 square metres, and others without windows or ventilation.
  • The report concludes that based on available evidence:
    • Micro-homes are not a solution to the housing crisis, instead they are a short-term, kneejerk reaction to wider problems in the housing market and the planning process.
    • They have a negative impact on affordability, health, community stability, and general well-being.
    • They are speculative, uncontrolled, and unplanned, and therefore in clear contradiction of the planned approach set out in the National Planning Policy Framework which requires that “planning policies and decisions should ensure that developments…create places that are safe, inclusive, and accessible and which promote health and wellbeing, with a high standard of amenity for existing and future users.
    • They create inflationary and unintended price pressure in the rest of the housing market.

Recommendations include scrapping office-to-residential Permitted Development Rights in the name of intergenerational fairness so that any new homes created are decent and affordable.less than 37m2 in the UK.